The International Air Transport Association (IATA) released data showing air freight markets in March were up 5.9 per cent compared to a year ago and capacity grew 3.4 per cent.
The association said that, while this marks a significant improvement in volumes compared to March 2013, much of the growth took place in the final quarter of 2013, over and above the usual year-end volume growth.
"Since the beginning of the year, air cargo volumes have been basically flat. This plateau in volumes is consistent with the recent pause in improvements to business confidence and world trade," IATA said in a press release.
Business conditions in the US and Europe, however, provide a reason to be cautiously optimistic for a resumption of growth in the months ahead, IATA said.
"Rising export orders, in particular, are expected to give positive momentum to US and European markets. But this is balanced against the impact of a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing which is now into its fourth month. This has already impacted exports from emerging Asian countries, which contracted in February," its statement said.
Commenting on the March data, Tony Tyler, IATA’s director general and CEO said: “Cargo markets had a boost in the last quarter of 2013, but have now levelled off.
"It is a competitive industry with growing capacity chasing weak demand. The business cycle will eventually swing upwards. But the air cargo industry also needs to improve its value proposition if it is to attract growth when markets improve," he added.
Modernising air cargo processes and infrastructure offers the potential to cut end-to-end shipping times by up to 48 hours. We cannot let market doldrums hold us back from this critical competitive gain."